Inuit Views Presented at the Economist's Canada Summit

Duane Smith of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) was invited by The Economist to present the views of Inuit at its premier Canadian event held here today, called The Canada Summit: Confronting the Big Questions.

The event’s main panellists and speakers included Alberta’s Premier Jim Prentice and Bank of Canada Governor Stephen F. Poloz, as well as many bankers, economists, and chief executives who addressed issues such as global banking, energy, and investing in ideas.

Mr. Smith was joined on a panel called “Canada and the Arctic Council” by former Toronto mayor and current CEO of WWF Canada, David Miller, and Tony Guthrie, Chief executive of De Beers Canada.

Speaking as both ICC Canada President, and Vice Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Mr. Smith shared Inuit insights based on questions posed by moderator and Canada correspondent for The Economist, Madelaine Drohan. In contrast to Mr. Guthrie’s position that the Arctic was the “last global frontier”, Mr. Smith suggested that the Arctic was better described as a vibrant place full of life and, most notably, “a place where Inuit live in an area covering 40% of Canada’s land mass”.

Both Mr. Smith and David Miller said that De Beers now exemplified many characteristics of a good corporate citizen in the Arctic but “they had to learn the hard way”, added the ICC Canada president.

In response to a call for tougher rules for Arctic development by the WWF Canada head, and a call for fewer rules by the De Beers CEO, Duane Smith emphasized the importance of strictly following existing rules and constitutional arrangements that already exist. “We need to make sure the rules are not watered down, as some resource companies are asking for, but more importantly we need to make sure the existing arrangements, such as co-management are maintained and strengthened”, he added.

David Miller praised Canada for having the foresight in 1996, when the Arctic Council was founded, to agree to having international indigenous peoples organizations play a direct and meaningful role alongside states in the Arctic Council, of which ICC is one of six.

In response to a question on Arctic sovereignty, the ICC Canada President reminded the audience that sovereignty for Inuit included dimensions well beyond the buying of icebreakers, such as food security and social well-being.

Mr. Smith said he saw the need back in 2011 for Inuit leaders from Greenland, Alaska, Russia, and Canada to forge a collective path on these matters and organized an Inuit Leaders’ Summit on resource development. He concluded by inviting those who want to understand “our own Inuit rules regarding development” to consult the ensuing 2011 A Circumpolar Declaration on Resource Development Principles in Inuit Nunaat, where “it is clear we want development partnerships, but on our terms and at the right pace”.

Source: Inuit Circumpolar Council